All in the Family

Creativity plus team spirit and flexibility key to firm’s growth

The staffing industry is competitive. You have to fight to get the reqs and fight to find the right candidate — then convince that person to take the job. But for some Best Staffing Firms to Work For employees, it’s about more than making numbers. It’s about the team spirit and family-like atmosphere among the workers. Nashville, Tenn.-based Vaco is one of those firms, they say.

“I think at the core it’s a family,” says Bradley Hewett, who is managing partner of Vaco’s Tampa, Fla., office. “It’s a deep caring for one another both professionally and personally. … Everyone is rooting for each other to be successful.”

Yes, the numbers remain important, but people and a healthy competition remain key to keeping workers on long term and growing.

Supportive Environment

Frances Moreno, managing partner of Vaco’s Los Angeles marketplace, says that while a consulting and staffing firm must reach certain performance metrics to grow successfully, Vaco offers a “creative license” to make it the most supportive environment it can be.

“This company is a phenomenal place to work as an executive woman and a mother of three,” Moreno says. “I really don’t want to make light of that because I launched the Los Angeles practice because of my experience with my eldest daughter having special needs.”

Moreno started the Los Angeles practice in January 2006 after working for another company that, while a good place to work at the time, didn’t offer the same level of flexibility as Vaco to enable her to be on hand to help her daughter.

At her former company, Moreno was an anomaly, she says, as a million-dollar biller and a director leading teams who also needed flexibility to take her daughter to her physical therapy, neurologist and other appointments. Vaco offered the flexibility she needed, while still enabling her to lead and build a company based on the premise of strategy and end results, not day-to-day micromanagement. “My daughter passed away four years ago in February, and she had the best life she could with us because I was able to be there for her at critical times,” Moreno says — not just for her important appointments, but other special times, like “school events like the Halloween Parade, holiday pageant, Special Olympics and even volunteer in her class.” When her daughter passed away, Moreno says she received an outpouring of sympathy and love from across Vaco’s national offices, and the CEO, COO and national partners from across the country flew in for the memorial services.

“After a major life event like that, it is hard to pick up the pieces and keep going,” she shares. “But if this organization wasn’t as great and phenomenal as it is, I would have left a long time ago.”

Moreno is still leading world-class teams and is a million-dollar biller every year. “I feel like some corporations are just soulless, and it’s just numbers, numbers, numbers,” she says. “Vaco’s never been that way, and it never will be. It’s about people and we’re on a life’s journey and it doesn’t get any better than this. This company is truly great.”

The Insider Experience

People work on teams, and there’s a healthy competition where internal workers root for one another to succeed. People never feel as if they are alone on some desert island.

Employee recognition takes place on a weekly and daily basis. Vaco also fosters camaraderie, with team-building events that include everything from philanthropic volunteering to team gatherings.

New-hire onboarding includes local and regional training 90 days into the company and a training week at the national office in Nashville.

Then there is the “Vatopia” trip, an annual event for all high-performing internal client service and recruiter personnel in the company; there’s no set limit to the number who can attend. Vaco employees have gone to the Mexican Riviera, Costa Rica and Lake Tahoe. This year: the Bahamas. The trip enables employees from Vaco offices around the globe to network with one another.

In keeping with its concern about both employees’ professional and personal life, Moreno says Vaco is big on acknowledging life events such as a wedding, new baby or a death in an employee’s family. And that extends outside the company to consultants and clients as well.

“There’s no more important thing than a major event in one’s life,” Moreno says. “We’re very cognizant that we’re on a journey with our internal employees.”

All the steps appear to be keeping people motivated. In addition to being on the Best Staffing Firms to Work For list, Vaco also ranked on last year’s list of fastest-growing staffing firms and the list of largest US staffing firms. “When someone joins Vaco, we always share the same story; no matter where you are at Vaco, you should come with the expectation of retiring here,” CEO Jerry Bostelman says. “With that contract, we work really hard individually to define what someone wants to accomplish, prepare them for the opportunity to achieve that and work with them to help them be as great as they can be.”

Bostelman also describes three giant experiences for internal workers at Vaco: They can become famous locally working through a local branch; become famous internationally working with the firm’s global offices; or they can take part in a flexible opportunity.

And outlaws are welcome. “You may have heard in our industry [the saying that] you hire for résumé and then the whole damn person shows up,” he says. “We love that, and we encourage everybody to bring their entire selves to Vaco.”

To help workers achieve their maximum, Vaco works to understand what the person is trying to accomplish, Bostelman says. This includes their professional goals, family goals, community goals and even athletic goals. Overall, culture is key at Vaco. Hewett says the culture is contagious, and it centers around people. “There’s this super-high energy, desire to win,” he says. People get the flexibility to find their own paths to success, and he says the opportunity at the company is limitless. People play hard and work hard, as the saying goes.

Hewett was the company’s first hire after it launched in August 2003 in Nashville. It had been open only nine or 10 months when he joined. He credits the firm’s concern over both the internal worker’s professional and personal lives as a key motivator in his staying.

He lost his father about a year and a half ago, and he found it moving to see his Vaco brothers and sisters at the funeral. The company is there for the good times and the bad times, he says.

“You don’t want to leave your family, and that’s how I feel about Vaco.”